Amazing facts about the FIFA World Cup

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There are still more than four months to go before Qatar 2022 gets underway, but already, the atmosphere is building up. With the qualifiers finally complete, we know the identities of the 32 teams that will be competing this year for the biggest prize in the world’s biggest sport.

Even if you’re not ordinarily a sports fan and you don’t know your Ronaldo from your Ronaldino, it is almost impossible to avoid getting caught up in the hype that accompanies a World Cup. So don’t try to resist, take a seat on the sofa with a prime view of the TV and get into the World Cup spirit by getting clued up on some fascinating facts about the tournament.

A 92 year history

These days, we are accustomed to World Cups in just about every sport. But in the late 1920s, the Olympics was the only international sports tournament on this scale. FIFA President Jules Rimet was actually inspired by the popularity of football at the Olympics to arrange the first football World Cup in 1930. It was hosted by Uruguay, who won the final in front of 93,000 home fans.

An exclusive club

This year, more than 200 teams entered the World Cup qualifiers, competing for 32 qualifying spots in the tournament proper in Qatar. It used to be even harder to qualify, as initially, only 13 teams competed, rising to 16 in 1934, then to 24 in 1982 and to 32 in 1998. This will go up to 48 in 2026. In total, 79 teams have made at least one World Cup appearance, but only one, Brazil, has appeared in all 21 World Cups.

A gambling extravaganza

Every online sportsbook in the US is already offering odds on the winner, group qualifiers, top goal scorer, and a dozen other possible World Cup wagers. The internet has made World Cup betting accessible to everyone, and at the last World Cup in Russia four years ago, an incredible €136 billion was placed in wagers – that’s about $143 billion.

History in the making

In the tournament’s long history, only three men have taken part in five World Cup tournaments. They are Mexico players Antonio Carbajal (1950 to 1966) and Rafael Márquez (2002 to 2018) plus Germany’s Lothar Matthäus (1982 to 1998). Incredibly, they could be joined by four others this year. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Sergio Ramos (Spain) and Andrés Guardado (Mexico) all played in 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018, and all are available for Qatar 2022.

Messi was the youngest ever goal scorer when he made his debut in 2006, and if anyone can set a new record by playing in six World Cup Tournaments, it will surely be him, as he will still be only 38 when the 2026 event gets underway. Having said that, Ronaldo’s legions of fans might well have a different view, and the topic has already triggered some good natured online debate between the Messi and Ronaldo camps.

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